The Hidden Messages of Commercials

We all see commercials almost everyday, but often times we don’t pay attention to the subtle details. When looking at gender specifically related to children it is interesting to look deeper into the commercials played during cartoons and kids channels in general. I was watching my cousins who are ages 5 and 10 and I was kind of thrown off by the messages these commercials were trying to portray. The commercials made it very clear which gender the toys or movies they were trying to sell were geared towards.

When looking at the keywords essay, “Gender” by Erica Hateley a few things caught my attention that related closely with these commercials. One of the passages was talking about children’s text and the way it is presented and it said that the text “presented boys in fiction as movers, doers, explorers, adventurers, creatures of action, guile, mischief, intellect, and leadership. Girls were presented as tag-alongs, subordinate to cousin initiative and daring, relatively docile, passive, emotional, and unimaginative; as restraining influences on male daring and excess; as objects of an ambivalent (if not schizophrenic) male adulation and contempt (mirroring that which was prevalent in adult society); as domestic souls in training to be housewives and mothers.

As a young woman I find this to be almost disturbing but also very true, and these commercials make these characteristics seem true. In the commercials the ones for dolls and Barbie are shown with only girls playing with them, while the commercials for race cars and legos are only boys. Another interesting thing I noticed was the colors that are shown in the different commercials. The ones for the girls were bright colors like pink and yellow while the boys commercials were red and blue. The voices are also different depending on the target audience, because the ones geared towards girls are usually a girls voice and the boys have a male speaking. What caught my eye the most about these commercials is the way that boys are seen as playing with the more intellectual toys like the building kits, where the girls are playing with Easy Bake Ovens and being taught that they are meant to be preparing the food. By having these commercials be seen to young kids the target audience is being determined just by the way they are presenting the product.

4 thoughts on “The Hidden Messages of Commercials”

  1. I thought your post was very interesting! I had never thought about commercials like this as being gender-specific because I guessed we’re all just conditioned that way. Now that you brought it up however, I cannot stop noticing all the instances in which this occurs. Since taking this class, I find myself looking for examples like this everywhere so now maybe I won’t be so bored when I’m sitting on the couch watching TV with my younger sisters.

  2. I am currently enrolled in the Marketing 300 course here at Madison. We recently discussed a topic similar to this! We were looking at how different companies advertise their products towards specific genders in order to sell them. We focused on adults, but it still relates. One product, for example, was Bic “Pens for Women.” The product was overall a fail, with very low sales. My professor’s point with showing us this was that not ALL products need to be geared toward a specific gender. Women and men alike can use the same pen. Who would’ve thought! Another example shown was a tool set “for women.” The tool set “for women” was intended for women, because the products were pink. Again, the product failed. Unfortunately the shared traits and needs of women and men are often overlooked, and companies produce products that fail because of that ignorance.

  3. One thing that really struck me in your post is that you observed that boys are seen playing with more “intellectual” toys. We know from history that boys had access to formal education long before girls did, but it is shocking to see that those trends are still happening today, even if it is just with the toys that children are playing with. To think of it from an intellectual stand point, boys and girls are learning very different things from the types of toys they are playing with and boys continue to have more access to toys that promote skills needed/taught in formal education settings.

  4. It definitely is interesting to analyze the commercials which are targeted at children and even how they have evolved over the years. With such an emphasis on attempting to eliminate the separation between “boys toys” and “girls toys”, it seems that these commercials still send the same message they did when I was a kid. Easy Bake Ovens are for girls and cars are for boys. I believe there is a certain money motivation behind this. Would easy bake ovens sell the same amount if ads showed a boy and girl playing with it? This would be an interesting study to conduct.

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